At only 16, Dante Brown has made a name for himself as someone to watch in young Hollywood. This fall, he co-stars on FOX’s new series “Lethal Weapon.” Based off the 1987 film, and follows Roger Murtaugh [Damon Wayans Sr.] and Martin Riggs [Clayne Crawford] as a pair of mismatched L.A.P.D. detectives and I caught up with him to talk about what he’s learned so far by making the show.
How is “Lethal Weapon” stretching you as an actor?
My role as RJ on “Lethal Weapon” is definitely affording me an opportunity to grow as an actor. Most of the major roles I’ve been blessed to play have predominantly been pretty vast but entailing heavy dialogue and content: “Won’t Back Down” playing Mrs. Viola Davis’ son whom had a learning disability, “Law and Order: SVU” which was based on a very unfortunate truth of a teen being criminally convicted after accidentally pushing a transgender person over a bridge, and “Shameless,” playing a teen drug dealer on the streets of Chicago. So playing my character on “Lethal Weapon” is unlike any other character I’ve played. RJ is a very straight laced, intelligent kid that has lived his life, predominantly by the book. He is now on the cusp of wanting to explore life differently and step out of his comfort zone. It will be interesting to watch how my character develops over the season and all the situations RJ gets introduced to, as he grows.
How much does the new series reference the movie?
Not a lot, but just enough. The series will resemble the “Lethal Weapon” franchise in spirit, but has different aspects in that it’s not a traditional buddy series and focuses more on relationship drama. There will be week-to-week crimes being dealt with, but overall, the series will be super fun, full of action, suspenseful and emotional, yet a grounded family drama.
At 16, what are you learning from working with such established actors?
That’s a great question. Over the years, I’ve worked with some amazing, hard-working actors. Although I was pretty young when I worked with Mrs. Viola Davis, I still remember her giving me several tips and her biggest one helped me understand the importance of being in the scene. When I worked with Mr. Ice T, of course, having a mutual love for music in common, he shared a lot of old school knowledge and history about hip hop and the music industry. Working with Mr. Craig Robinson, both being ChiTown boys, he shared a lot of practicality in dealing with the highs and lows of the industry and keeping family first as a strong support system. On “Lethal Weapon,” with Mr. Damon Williams, not a day on set goes by without gaining life lessons from him. He’s now like a huge mentor to me or a super cool uncle. He really gives me a lot of wisdom regarding when you’re on top, how to stay on top. It’s super helpful for a kid like me, because even though I’ve put a lot of time and work into this industry, I’m still young, learning and growing. So Mr. Damon helps me think about maintaining my head and keeping focused. I ask a lot of questions, so I really appreciate that he is very open about sharing his mistakes, letting me know what works and what I should do, and what not to do.
You also record music under DanteThePoet. What are you writing about?
When I’m writing and rapping, it’s about life. I enjoy telling life stories in the form of rap. Although I’m a teen and most of the situations start from the basis of teen life, often times the end result of my music can apply to adults and just life in general. I’m talking about working, pursuing goals and dreams, family, friends, girls and relationship heartbreaks. I even talk about current issues impacting our society and easy, light fun stuff, like fashion, cool things kids do and just enjoying life. I’ve been told by my friends and several of my music mentors that my music style reminds them of like a young Kanye (College Drop Out days), a young Kendrick at times, and sometimes a mix of Tyler the Creator and Childish Gambino… just a clean version, of course.
How does music fulfill a side of your creativity that acting does not?
Music gives me so much freedom… freedom to talk about things that myself and maybe others are going through… experiences that the characters I’ve played and currently play, might or might not be going through. Music also acts as my therapy. When recording music, because there are no cameras around and I’m in a dark space, (a small closet at home, which serves as my studio), I get to be more intimate with my expressions… totally uninhibited in my music and just let loose, having fun. When creating music, I’m able to get out all my problems, whatever energy I’m feeling and deal with whatever is happening around the world. Music helps me to really release a lot because I put so much into it, so people that are going through the same thing can easily identify with me and realize that at the end of the day, we’re the same and go through the same problems.
What’s coming up for you musically?
Well, I’m constantly making music, so my library is growing like crazy. Immediately what comes to mind is I have two mixtapes and several singles dropping, this fall; so please check out my Soundcloud and Instagram @dantethepoet, to stay plugged on what’s dropping and when. I also plan to bring back my #GoodMusic Friday or #MusicMonday, releasing new music, weekly on either of those days. I think you guys are going to enjoy my new music. I attended the Grammy Foundation’s Grammy Camp last year and learned a lot about honing and perfecting my sound from an Audio Engineer perspective and I must admit, my new stuff, sounds really good sonically – I’m hoping everyone will think lyrically, as well. One of my mixtapes shows the vulnerable side of me, dealing with heartbreaks and being a hopeless romantic. I’m also going to show off my lyricism. There will be an occasional song here and there with my brother Dusan making a guest appearance and a couple of friends.
Beyond “Lethal Weapon,” what’s next?
I have an awesome project/segment airing on a major network, just a few days before the premiere of “Lethal Weapon.” I’m not able to release the full details of this exciting news just yet, so those interested in knowing, will have to keep an eye on my social media. I’m also in a pretty dramatic, independent short film, starring alongside my brother – it’s called “Black Doves.” I get to play an African kid named Jai. We will be launching our crowdfunding campaign soon at www.BlackDovesFilm.com and would appreciate your support. I am currently writing my first animated show that I hope to start pitching to various networks.
“Lethal Weapon” airs Wednesdays on FOX.